“We are so excited. Our feet were jittery all day,” said Greta Elder, 12 a member of the Yarmouth Colts soccer team who came to the Ocean Gateway to have their photo taken with the first lady, Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama made two appearances in Maine September 30, 2011, to raise funds to reelect her husband.
The excitement was palpable throughout the crowd who waited patiently to hear from Mrs. Obama at the Ocean Gateway in Portland. After her rallying speech the diverse crowd of seniors, veterans, lawmakers, college students, citizens who took time off from work, and parents with children, were as Mrs. Obama put it were, “fired up.” They answered her last question of her speech, “Are you in?” with an overwhelming, “yes.”
“She was fabulous,” said Anne Belden, president of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a nonprofit that promotes learning experiences for young women. “I love the role model she’s being for women and girls everywhere.”
She informed the audience about the importance of the American Jobs Act that is before Congress waiting to be voted on.
“When we talk about how this bill will give tax cuts to 6 million small business owners, we are talking about folks who run the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country each year — two-thirds. We’re talking about people who work themselves to the bone every day, then they go home and pore over the books late into the night, determined to make the numbers add up,” said the first lady to applause.
“We’re also talking about a tax cut that could mean the difference between providing for their families or not, between hiring new employees or handing out pink slips; the difference between keeping their doors open, or closing up shop for good.”
Then she mentioned the thousands of souls that are unemployed.
“When we talk about how this bill would extend unemployment insurance for 6 million Americans, we’re talking about folks who are just weeks away from losing their only source of income. . . So this is literally about whether or not millions of families and children will have food on their tables and a roof over their heads. It’s about whether folks will have money in their pockets, money that means more money into the economy and more jobs,” said Mrs. Obama.
She reminded the crowd that Obama will bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and, “help them and their families get the education and the employment and the benefits that they have earned.”
“And how about the first bill my husband signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work? “ she asked to a rousing applause.
“Think about the investments we’ve made to raise standards and to reform our public schools. Think about how we’ve tripled investments for job training at community colleges just this year alone,” she said and then she connected it to America’s future prosperity. “Investment in our students and in our workers will determine nothing less than the future of this economy. It’s going to determine whether we’re prepared to make the kinds of discoveries and build the industries that will let us compete with any country anywhere in the world.”
Mrs. Obama contrasted the stark differences between Republican and Democratic economic and social philosophies. She highlighted how important the upcoming presidential election will be in determining America’s future.
“So make no mistake about it, whether it’s health care or the economy, education or foreign policy, the choice we make in this election will determine nothing less than who we are as a country— and who we want to be,” she said.
“Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to the few at the top? Or will we give every child a chance to succeed, no matter where she’s from, what she looks like, or how much money her parents have? Who do we want to be as a nation?,” she questioned. “Will we lose sight of those basic values that made our country great and built our thriving middle class? Or can we rebuild our economy for the long term so that work pays, and responsibility is rewarded, and everyone— everyone— gets a fair shake and does their fair share?”
About 650 people paid at least $100 each to attend today’s rally, which featured appearances by the state’s top Democrats, U.S. Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree. Donors in the “preferred” section paid $250.
Before the first lady spoke Michaud and Pingree told the audience of Mrs. Obama’s efforts to help veterans and fight childhood obesity.
“She’s a great advocate for veterans affairs. The state should be proud that she came here today,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.
Both Maine’s House members of Congress sit on Veteran’s committees.
“I can’t say how pleased I am that she represents us. I was glad to have the opportunity to thank her for her work on behalf of military families and discuss her initiatives to promote healthy food and healthy living,” said Pingree. “The first lady was articulate and passionate. At this moment when the stakes are so high, she reminded us that we’re all in this together.”
Mrs. Obama said, “Like it or not, we are all in this together, and that’s a good thing. And we know that here in America, we can shape our own destiny. We know that if we make the right choices, and if we have the right priorities, we can ensure that everyone gets a fair shake and a chance to get ahead.”
Before today’s Ocean Gateway event, Mrs. Obama attended a smaller fundraiser at a private home in Cape Elizabeth. The last time Michelle Obama was in Maine was just over a year ago when the first family vacationed at Bar Harbor in the summer of 2010.